Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders headline opening night of four-day event defining Democrats’ election message.
- Democrats kicked off their digital nominating convention in the age of COVID-19, featuring a star-studded list of speakers addressing a national prime-time audience.
- Each of the four nights will feature a combination of two hours of pre-recorded video and two hours of live events in a convention that is like none before.
- Presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, leads President Donald Trump by double digits in many opinion polls, although some polls suggest the race is tightening.
- Democrats are turning up the heat on Trump’s attempts to cut the US Postal Service’s funding as coronavirus rages throughout the country, making mail-in ballots necessary for a safe election.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, August 17
03:11 GMT – Michelle Obama says Trump is the ‘wrong president’
Michelle Obama called out Trump’s failings while highlighting her own experience with Biden during her keynote address to the DNC, saying the US needs a leader who can empathise with those who struggled financially or lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Biden, who has unexpectedly lost loved ones and knows what it is like to sit “with an empty chair” at the dinner table, can do that, Obama said.
Trump, she said, “is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment … It is what it is.”
Michelle Obama: "It is what it is." pic.twitter.com/93V9kJZrHT
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) August 18, 2020
Obama called on people to vote in record numbers to elect Biden, who will restore decency to the US.
“So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election … We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
02:48 GMT – Sanders calls on supporters to back Biden
Senator Bernie Sanders spoke, thanking the “millions of people” who supported his campaign and calling on them to unite behind Biden, saying Trump is leading the US “down the path of authoritarianism” and that, if he is re-elected, “all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy”.
“We need Joe Biden as our next president.”
Sanders and Biden disagreed on a number of issues, the senator cited Biden’s support of a $15 minimum wage, funding universal pre-kindergarten childcare programmes, and ending private prisons among other commonalities to rally his supporters behind Biden.
Clear message from @SenSanders to his supporters: The struggle for socialism continues; it can’t be won in this election, but it can be lost for a generation unless Trump is defeated and democracy preserved.
— Tony Karon (@TonyKaron) August 18, 2020
One of Sanders’s signature policy proposals was “Medicare for All” or universal healthcare, which Biden has not endorsed, but Sanders said Biden’s policy proposals, including reducing prescription drug prices, will greatly expand access to healthcare.
02:10 GMT – Republicans voice their support for Biden
Several former elected officials – all Republicans – voiced their support for Biden during the DNC.
“In normal times, this would never happen”, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a lifelong Republican, said in a video, “but these are not normal times.”
Kasich, a longtime political adversary of the president said Trump is dividing the country, calling on fellow Republicans to help elect Biden to “unite” the US.
John Kasich: "I'm sure there are Republicans and Independents who couldn't imagine crossing over to support a Democrat. They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don't believe that because I know the measure of the man. It’s reasonable, faithful, respectful."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 18, 2020
Kasich said there are points on which he and Biden disagree, and that while many Republicans may have difficulty “crossing the aisle” to support him, the “stakes in this election are greater than any in modern times”, Kasich said.
01:50 GMT – Governor Andrew Cuomo compares virus to Trump
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose political stock has risen thanks to his handling of the coronavirus, addressed the DNC by calling out Trump’s stewardship during the pandemic.
“Our nation is in crisis, and in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor,” Cuomo said. “A virus attacks when the body is weak and when it cannot defend itself. Over these past few years, America’s body politic has been weakened.”
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 18, 2020
“Only a strong body can fight off the virus, and America’s divisions weakened it,” Cuomo continued, “Trump didn’t create the initial division. The division created Trump; he only made it worse.”
01:42 GMT – George Floyd’s brother leads moment of silence
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, the Black man whose death in police custody in Minneapolis in May helped spark a nationwide protest movement, addressed the DNC.
Speaking from his home in Texas, Floyd said the movement was “a fitting legacy for our brother. But George should be alive today. Breonna Taylor should be alive today. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today. Eric Garner should be alive today. Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland – they should all be alive today”.
Before leading a moment of silence for those who lost their lives, Floyd said: “George had a giving spirit. A spirit that has shown up on streets around our nation, and around the world – people of all races, all ages, all genders, all backgrounds – peacefully protesting in the name of love and unity.”
01:06 GMT – Convention kicks off with talk of unity in the face of Trump
The first-ever Democratic National Convention kicked off with actress and activist Eva Longoria focusing on the coronavirus, the spread of which has been blamed largely on the Trump administration.
“The tragedy has affected us all,” Longoria said, citing the more than 170,000 people who have died due to COVID-19.
— Eva Longoria Baston (@EvaLongoria) August 18, 2020
Four years under the Trump administration has left us “diminished and divided”, Longoria said, but the difficulties have also brought the US together.
The convention then went to a montage of people reading the preamble of the US Constitution, where the words “We the people” lead to a group singing the opening lines of the national anthem.
00:11 GMT – Sanders to plead for unity
Senator Bernie Sanders, a political independent who is the leader of the Democratic Party’s ascendent left wing, will call on all Democrats to unite under the Biden campaign.
We have got to beat Trump, an authoritarian who is trying to undermine American democracy. But it is not good enough just to defeat Trump. We need to create a new America and a government and an economy that works for all and not just a few.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 17, 2020
Sanders came in second during the primaries and looked poised to win the nomination before numerous candidates dropped out in an unprecedented show of moderate unity.
However, Sanders will ask “everyone who supported other candidates in this primary” to “come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president.”
23:38 GMT – Michelle Obama: Biden a ‘profoundly decent man’
Michelle Obama, wife of former President Barack Obama, will extol Biden’s character and record.
“I know Joe,” Obama will say, according to a video excerpt of her pre-recorded remarks. “He is a profoundly decent man guided by faith. He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country.”
A major talking point of the Biden campaign – especially since Kamala Harris was named as his running mate – has been Trump’s handling of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the US into the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression.
The US economy, also during the Trump administration, previously saw one of the strongest economic growth periods in its history, growth Biden and Harris say the Obama administration was responsible for.
23:10 GMT – Trump says he will accept nomination from the White House
US President Donald Trump on Monday said he would accept the Republican nomination for a second term during a live speech at the White House next week, confirming plans that made Democrats accuse him of politicising the White House, a national symbol.
Trump last week told the New York Post he would “probably” accept the Republican nomination from the White House lawn, calling it “a place that makes me feel good”.
Speaker Pelosi says President Trump accepting the GOP nomination from the White House “is something that should be rejected right out of hand.”
“It’s a diversion, and that is what he is, a master of diversion.” pic.twitter.com/GUJWHnEw68
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 5, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during an interview on MSNBC that “for the president of the United States to degrade once again the White House as he has done over and over again by saying he’s going to completely politicise it, is something that should be rejected right out of hand.”
23:01 GMT – Former senior Trump official endorses Biden
A former high-ranking official in the Trump administration says he would back Biden as the US is “less secure” under Trump.
Miles Taylor, who served at the Department of Homeland Security between 2017 and 2019, including as chief of staff, said he “witnessed the damning results first-hand” of what he called Trump’s “personal deficiencies”.
“I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions,” Taylor wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Monday.
Biden is expected to accept the Democratic nomination this week, leading to his showdown with Trump in November.